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Daniel P. Lopresti:  Research

My research has spanned a number of different areas over the years, but generally has been driven by fundamental issues arising in pattern recognition and its application to real-world problems.

Electronic Voting Systems

For a summary of some of my recent work on electronic voting, please visit the PERFECT project website here.

Noisy Text Analytics

Errors are unavoidable in advanced computer vision applications such as optical character recognition (OCR), and the noise induced by these errors presents a serious challenge to downstream processes that attempt to make use of such data. Some of my work involves developing techniques to measure the impact of recognition errors on the NLP stages of a standard text analysis pipeline: sentence boundary detection, tokenization, and part-of-speech tagging. I have developed a methodology that formulates error classification as an optimization problem solvable using a hierarchical dynamic programming approach, and used this technique to analylze OCR errors and their cascading effects as they travel through the pipeline. Listed below are papers that describe this work:

“Measuring the Impact of Character Recognition Errors on Downstream Text Analysis,” D. Lopresti, Proceedings of Document Recognition and Retrieval XV (IS&T/SPIE International Symposium on Electronic Imaging), January 2008.

“Performance Evaluation for Text Processing of Noisy Inputs,” D. Lopresti, Proceedings of the 20th Annual ACM Symposium on Applied Computing (Document Engineering Track), March 2005, Santa Fe, NM, pp. 759-763.  (Abstract)  (PDF 83 kbytes)

“Summarizing Noisy Documents” (with H. Jing and C. Shih), Proceedings of the Symposium on Document Image Understanding Technology, April 2003, Greenbelt, MD, pp. 111-119.  (PDF 97 kbytes)

I am also co-chair of the Workshops on Analytics for Noisy Unstructured Text Data. The first workshop, AND 2007, was held in Hyderabad India in January 2007 in conjunction with the Twentieth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI). The second workshop, AND 2008, will be held in Singapore in July 2008 in conjunction with the Thirty-first Annual International ACM SIG-IR Conference.

A noisy text dataset I have made available to the international research community can be found here.


My thesis work at Princeton under Dick Lipton (now at Georgia Tech) was some of the earliest in the area of parallel algorithms for the rapid comparison of genetic sequences.  I built the first systolic array for solving a combinatorial problem, P-NAC (the "Princeton Nucleic Acid Comparator").  At Brown I continued this research with my Ph.D. student Richard Hughey (now at UC Santa Cruz), and also co-taught a seminar on "Computational Aspects of Molecular and Population Biology" with Lisa Brooks of the Biology Department.  Consulting at the Supercomputing Research Center, I implemented sequence comparison on SPLASH, a massively parallel reconfigurable logic array (FPGA) architecture, work that was awarded Honorable Mention in 1989 Gordon Bell Prize competition.

Microphotograph of P-NAC

Three of my more recent theoretical results also have potential applications in bioinformatics.  Working with Andrew Tomkins (now at IBM Almaden), I introduced the notion of block edit distance, which imposes an added layer of structure on top of traditional string matching; two strings are compared by optimally extracting sets of substrings and placing them into correspondence.  These could, for example, represent biological "motifs" that are shared between two genetic sequences, but that appear in an unknown order.  Depending on whether the strings must be matched in their entireties and/or whether overlap is forbidden between the substrings, we showed that the problem is either NP-complete or solvable in polynomial time using our algorithms.  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)

Cross-domain approximate string matching, work I did with Gordon Wilfong at Bell Labs, extends traditional string matching in another way, by allowing strings to be specified compared under fundamentally different edit models that possess their own distinct alphabets and cost functions, which we call domains.  Transcription rules are used to map the strings from one domain into another. The genetic code is one such transcription process, mapping from triples of nucleotides (codons) to the amino acids that make up proteins.  Given two RNA sequences, one might naturally wonder how similar the proteins they code for are.  Taking this one step further, it is easy to imagine each of the RNA sequences first undergoing pre-processing to correct for possible "noise" effects that may have occurred for any of a number of reasons, biological or otherwise (e.g., errors in reading the sequencing gels).  Our work formulates this computation as a unified optimization problem and solves it using a new dynamic programming algorithm.  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)

Gordon and I have also recently started studying an easy-to-compute measure for quantifying the similarity between two arbitrary graphs, which we call graph probing distance.  We have proven that this distance yields a lower bound on the true edit distance between any two graphs, and have conducted experiments that suggest it provides a reliable approximation to graph edit distance.  Moreover, our technique is very fast; graphs with tens or hundreds of thousands of vertices can be compared in mere seconds.  Since certain problems in bioinformatics involve comparing large graphs, it seems quite possible that our results could be applied there.

Security Applications Involving Speech

With the current broad-based interest in security, speech is becoming a popular biometric.  Within the past year I have initiated two collaborations on unconventional uses for speech.

The first of these involves algorithmic techniques for distinguishing between humans and machines, a problem sometimes called the "Reverse Turing Test" (RTT) or "Human Interactive Proof" (HIP).  The growth of the Internet as a medium for distributing valuable content has made it an attractive target for hackers who write malicious programs ("bots") that attempt to exploit online services.  As a result, service providers have begun instituting automatic methods for telling whether the entities attempting to access their websites are humans or machines.  Current RTT's are predominately graphical.  Realizing that speech-based services are proliferating and that sensitive applications such as bank-by-phone could someday come under attack by bots built to navigate spoken language interfaces, I have adapted the notion of an RTT to the speech domain working with Chilin Shih (now at University of Illinois, Urbana) and Greg Kochanski (now at Oxford).  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)

In another security-related application, I have begun working with Fabian Monrose (now at Johns Hopkins), Mike Reiter (now at Carnegie Mellon), Peter Li (now at Li Creative Technologies), and Susanne Wetzel (now at Stevens Institute of Technology) on a concept for generating cryptographically secure keys from speech.  There are two basic methodologies for attacking such a system.  The standard approach is to attempt to reconstruct the key, perhaps with the help of cryptanalysis techniques.  A more novel line of attack is to try to synthesize the passphrase based on surreptitious audio recordings of the user speaking other material.  Recognizing this fact, I have been attempting to characterize the potential effectiveness of such attacks.  Doing so will help us achieve a better understanding of the security of the proposed method and develop ways of making it stronger.  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)

Document Analysis & Digital Libraries

My research in document analysis relates to making intelligent use of the information that is contained in paper and electronic documents.  I am interested in developing techniques that are robust in the presence of errors that invariably arise during recognition processes (both low- and high-level), with a variety of potential end-user applications including retrieval, summarization, data mining, transcoding into speech, etc.

Tables, for example, are an important means for communicating structured data.  Well-behaved tables can be viewed as relations in the database sense of the term, but most often the real world is not this accommodating.  With colleagues Jianying Hu (now at IBM Yorktown Heights), Ram Kashi (now at Avaya Research), and Gordon Wilfong, I have studied ways of locating and extracting tabular information so that it can be reformulated for other uses (e.g., for querying via a spoken language interface).

There is also an intriguing connection between this area and my interest in bioinformatics, as researchers have begun to consider ways of integrating the information contained in many disparate written sources (journal articles, database annotations, MEDLINE entries, etc.) that all make mention of, say, the same gene.

Performance evaluation has been another focus of my work in recent years, as has the fundamental nature of ground-truth, the reference by which recognition results are judged.  In a recent paper, George Nagy (at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and I proposed that user bias, context, and data-entry tools can play significant roles in determining truth, and that allowances should be made for more than one admissible ground-truth.  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is, of course, the largest distributed collection
of documents in the history of civilization, and has given rise to a diverse set of new problems.  I have looked at three in particular.  The first involves the extraction of text embedded in color GIF and JPEG images, information which is overlooked by current commercial search engines.  Indeed, Jiangying Zhou (now at Summus Ltd.) and I authored the first papers on this subject beginning in 1996.

Another topic of interest to me is the comparison of the graph structures induced by hyperlinked documents, an application of the graph probing paradigm I developed with Gordon Wilfong.  Possible applications include query-by-structure, information extraction, "wrapper" maintenance, etc.

Very recently, I have begun exploring a framework for the real-time adaptive delivery of web images to resource-constrained devices (e.g., PDA's on a wireless network) working with Yunnan Wu, a current graduate student at Princeton.  Our approach integrates techniques from image analysis, data compression, rate-distortion optimization,
and user interaction, yielding a scaleable representation that provides the best possible image for a given screen size and network bandwidth ("bit budget").  (A paper describing this work can be found here.)


© 2004 P.C. Rossin College of Engineering & Applied Science
Computer Science & Engineering, Packard Laboratory, Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA 18015